Astaxanthin (pronounced “asta-ZAN-thin”) is a naturally-occurring carotenoid found in algae, shrimp, lobster, crab and salmon. Carotenoids are pigment colors that occur in nature and support good health. Beta carotene, for example, is orange. Astaxanthin, dubbed the “king of the carotenoids” is red, and is responsible for turning salmon, crab, lobster and shrimp flesh pink. In the animal kingdom, astaxanthin is found in the highest concentration in the muscles of salmon. Scientists theorize astaxanthin helps provide the endurance these remarkable animals need to swim upstream. For humans, astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant with broad health implications and unlike other antioxidants, such as beta carotene, zeaxanthin, vitamin E, C, D and selenium, astaxanthin never becomes pro-oxidant in the body.
Astaxanthin has been discussed by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Joe Mercola and recommended by many health experts, including myself. I take 12 milligrams every morning. I’d like to clarify one myth now: Krill supplements contain trace amounts of astaxanthin, not nearly what you need to achieve the therapeutic benefits discussed today. Here are five reasons to take astaxanthin supplements every day:
1. Astaxanthin Can Help Relieve Pain and Inflammation
Astaxanthin is a potent anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, blocking different chemicals in your body that make you scream “ouch!” More than that, astaxanthin reduces the inflammatory compounds that drive many chronic diseases. Even though it’s 100 percent natural, astaxanthin works like some prescription analgesics, but without the risk of addiction, GI bleeds or heartburn. More specifically, astaxanthin blocks COX 2 enzymes just like Celebrex, the blockbuster drug prescribed for osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, acute pain and monthly dysmenorrhea. In fact, astaxanthin works well with Celebrex — it would be wise to take both together if you want to and if your doctor approves of astaxanthin.
Natural astaxanthin not only affects the COX 2 pathway, it suppresses serum levels of nitric oxide, interleukin 1B, prostaglandin E2, C Reactive Protein (CRP) and TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor alpha), and all of this has been proven. Astaxanthin was shown to reduce CRP by more than 20 percent in only eight weeks; there is not a prescription drug I know of that does that! Even the American Heart Association claims CRP is a key indicator of heart disease.
2. Astaxanthin Helps Fight Fatigue
Astaxanthin provides excellent recovery from exercise. Just like salmon making the heroic upstream swim, astaxanthin can help athletes do their best. Pure natural astaxanthin is indicated for recovery of muscles, better endurance, enhanced strength and improved energy levels.
3. Astaxanthin Supports Eye Health
Remember the famous song, “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone…” Well, I associate that song with astaxanthin. It has the unique ability to cross through a barrier and reach your retina. Well-designed clinical trials have shown that astaxanthin helps diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, eye strain and fatigue and seeing in fine detail. There are well-designed positive human clinical trials supporting eye health.
4. Astaxanthin Cleans Up the Cells
Astaxanthin is in a class of its own when it comes to antioxidant coverage, because it filters into every cell of the body. Its unique molecular lipophilic and hydrophilic properties allow it to span the entire cell, with one end of the astaxanthin molecule protecting the fat-soluble part of the cell and one end protecting the water-soluble part of the cell. You might think of it as giving your cell a full-body hug!
Natural astaxanthin is exceptionally powerful in singlet-oxygen quenching. A 2007 study analyzed several popular antioxidants and their antioxidant power. This study found astaxanthin was 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C, 800 times stronger than CoQ10, 550 times stronger than green tea catechins and 75 times stronger than alpha lipoic acid.
5. Gorgeous Skin and Sunscreen Protection
Astaxanthin has been shown to protect the body’s largest organ. The studies are clear and consistent and show excellent results for helping with skin moisture levels, smoothness, elasticity, fine wrinkles, and spots or freckles.
I have fair skin that tends to freckle, so I take astaxanthin, in part because it reduces damage caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. In fact, if you get a sunburn, which causes inflammation, astaxanthin penetrates the skin cells and reduces UVA damage. Think of it as an internal sunscreen. Other than skin benefits, I love astaxanthin because it relieves my minor aches and pains from yoga, dance, hiking, kayaking and whatever else I get into in the name of fun!
Best Astaxanthin Sources
Marine algae have an incredibly high amount of Astaxanthin. One product in particular, PhytOriginal, produces and sells live Astaxanthin that is quickly absorbed into the body. Many supplements offer a powder that may be another alternative, however be sure to do plenty of research on the quality.